Washing Your Hands Properly Stops the Spread of Contagious Disease

hand washingMost people know that washing your hands can help to prevent passing on nasty viruses and bacteria. But how many people just flick their hands under a dribbling tap and think that will do?

Now hopeless hand washers will be caught with glowing green fingers by a good hand-washing test.

A new hand-washing training kit uses a cream containing a harmless dye that glows green in ultraviolet light to show up shoddy hand washing.

Demonstrators put a blob of cream on people’s hands and send them away to wash them. When they come back, they are often amazed at how much glowing green dye remains on their fingers.

If the dye were a microbe, they would be standing a good chance of infecting themselves and passing it on to other people.

The glowing cream can also be used to show how viruses such as those that cause colds and flu can survive on hard surfaces and be spread from hand to hand. Just touching a doorknob that has had a little of the special cream applied to it can make people’s fingers turn green under UV light -- and then when they touch another person’s hand the green glow gets passed on.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Washing your hands frequently is one of the easiest ways to wipe out germs and reduce your chances of becoming sickened by them. And let’s face it; germs are everywhere.

They are in your home, in your kitchen sink and on your counters, in your laundry, in your shower and tub, at your office -- even your handbag commonly contains thousands of bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli, staph bacteria and more. You simply can’t escape them.

But this is nothing to be afraid of.

It has been shown time and time again that washing your hands with soap and water can kill viruses that cause:

  • The common cold
  • Hepatitis A
  • Acute gastroenteritis
  • Other illnesses

Thorough hand-washing truly is an important step, as you are at far greater risk of passing on an infection by shaking someone‘s hand than even by sharing a kiss.

One report even found that regular hand washing may be more effective than drugs in preventing the spread of respiratory viruses such as influenza. Germs that cause stomach infections such as salmonella, campylobacter and norovirus can also circulate directly from person to person via your hands.

Good hand hygiene has, in fact, been called your best option in the event of a flu pandemic.

Is Antibacterial Soap Necessary or Harmful?

Antibacterial soaps have been marketed as an effective and necessary way to lower your risk of infection. However, many scientists fear that their widespread use could lead to a strain of resistant bacteria, or "superbugs," and cause the ingredients to lose effectiveness for the times when they really are needed, such as for surgeons prior to surgery.

One major test in people's homes also found that using antibacterial products apparently offers little protection against the most common germs. The study represents the first time scientists have attempted to evaluate the products under real-life, day-to-day conditions in homes.

In the study, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, people who used antibacterial soaps and cleansers developed a cough, runny nose, sore throat, fever, vomiting, diarrhea and other symptoms just as often as people who used products that did not contain antibacterial ingredients.

The researchers pointed out that most of the symptoms experienced by the study participants are typically caused by viruses, which the antibacterial soaps won’t protect against anyway.

And for the symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea, which may be caused by bacteria, the people who used regular soaps had no greater risk than those who used antibacterial products.

Studies have also found that soap and water work better than the waterless, alcohol-based hand wipes and rubs. Further, the active ingredient in most antibacterial products is triclosan, an antibacterial agent that kills bacteria and inhibits bacterial growth. But not only does triclosan kill bacteria, it also has been shown to kill human cells.

So please avoid making the mistake of using antibacterial liquids and soaps.

These products kill both good and bad bacteria, which is why they are prone to contributing to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and potentially also to allergic diseases like asthma and hay fever.

A Three-Step Process for Effective Hand Washing

The Society for General Microbiology’s good hand-washing test was eye-opening for many who believed they had thoroughly washed their hands, yet found they had many spots of “glowing green” left.

So to make sure you’re actually removing the germs when you wash your hands, follow this three-step hand-washing technique:

  1. Use warm water
  2. Work up a good lather all the way up to your wrists for at least 10 or 15 seconds
  3. Don't forget to get all surfaces including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers and an area often overlooked -- your fingernails
  4. There is one important caveat to remember, and that is your skin is actually your primary defense against bacteria -- not the soap.  

So resist the urge to become obsessive about washing your hands. If you wash them too frequently you can actually extract many of the protective oils in your skin, which can cause your skin to crack and bleed.

It is rare for a germ on your skin to cause a problem -- it is typically only an issue when you transfer that to your nose, mouth or an open wound like cracked skin. So obsessive-compulsive washing can actually increase your risk of getting sick by providing an entryway for potentially dangerous pathogens.

So remember that excessive hand washing will actually INCREASE of developing an infection, especially in dry environments and in the winter. What happens is that the soap removes the beneficial oils from your skin and for many, this can cause actual openings in the surface of your skin.

Your skin serves as your primary barrier of defense from these germs and once you have open surfaces on your skin created from excessive hand washing the bacteria, viruses and other germs, have a portal directly into your body and bloodstream where they can play havoc with your body.

So mild to moderate washing is indicated but excessive washing, especially with harsh soaps, will actually be highly counter productive.

      Make Sure You Keep Your Immune System Healthy Too

      Hand washing is an excellent preventive tool, but a strong immune system is your best defense against any pathogenic bacteria you come across, and will serve you well if you nourish it with the proper tools.

      You can support your immune system by:

      When you follow these steps you can have peace of mind that any germs that do enter your body will be no match for your well nourished and highly capable immune system to conquer.